Hong Kong protester Tong Ying-kit's conviction and potential life sentence show the importance of liberal democracy – Scotsman comment

If a protester rides a motorbike into a group of police, allegedly injuring three of them, while holding a banner calling for “liberation” and “revolution”, what would be a fair and reasonable punishment?

Tong Ying-kit is facing life in prison after being convicted of inciting secession and terrorism (Picture: Isaac Lawrence/AFP via Getty Images)

Causing injuries to officers of the law is a serious offence in most countries but, in Hong Kong the most important aspect of this particular case is the banner.

And so, after being convicted of inciting secession and terrorism, Tong Ying-kit, 24 – the first person charged under Hong Kong’s new national security law – now faces life in prison.

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Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific regional director Yamini Mishra described the verdict as a “significant and ominous moment for human rights” in the former British colony, adding: “This feels like the beginning of the end for freedom of expression in Hong Kong.”

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The freedoms we enjoy in a liberal democracy are sometimes easy to take for granted. The more hot-headed protesters in the name of one cause or another in the UK will sometimes make claims about supposedly ‘fascist’ oppression by the government or the authorities.

But it only takes a little knowledge of events in other countries around the world to understand what it means to be free or not free.

The fact that Hong Kong once enjoyed those same freedoms and they are now being gradually taken away – as the world watches on, helpless because of the raw power of the dictators in Beijing – helps demonstrate just how fragile they are and how much we should treasure them.

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